One Direction T-shirts have their own world tour

How the U.K. boy band is taking merchandising to a whole new, euphoric level

A boy-band tour, minus the boys

Anne-Marie Jackson

A thousand screaming girls are lined up around the corner along Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. They are here for One Direction, the multi-platinum-selling boy band from the U.K. The atmosphere on the street is frenzied. One young girl is practically hyper-ventilating: “OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod.” Behind her, in tow, her mother rolls her eyes. But the group will not be showing up—and the girls know it. Instead, these fans have lined up for hours outside a pop-up store called “1D World” solely to get together to scream, sing, cry about their favourite band, and, of course, to buy its merchandise. There are shirts, posters, jewellery, even dolls bearing a likeness to the five group members.

One Direction performed two sold-out shows in Toronto in May, where plenty of merchandise was also on sale. But Stage 5, the Australian merchandising company for One Direction, decided to try something new and not confine itself to sales a few hours before and after each event.

The idea for an exclusive retail store for the band occurred while One Direction was touring Australia. Instead of selling merchandise exclusively at the concert—a tried-and-true tactic in the music industry—Stage 5 decided to open up a storefront in Sydney just to see what happened. “The next thing you know, I got 3,000 screaming teenagers outside the shop,” says Derek Glover, Stage 5’s managing director. When the band returned to the U.K. in the middle of their global tour, there was still some stock left in Australia. Glover wondered if the retail store would have the same success even without the band or any concerts on the horizon. So he opened up shop again in Melbourne to test the market. It was so successful, they tried it again in three other cities across the country. “Everywhere was nuts,” Glover says. “Girls were screaming and crying. You’ve seen nothing like it your life.”

The success in Australia led the company to open up two shops in North America this summer, one in Toronto and another in Chicago. The Toronto location, in a former furniture store, opened on Aug. 18 and will be there for two weeks. On a rainy Monday afternoon, nine days after 1D World’s crowded grand opening, a constant stream of girls still fill the 2,500-sq.-foot store, singing and taking pictures alongside other “Directioners.” “I have a 12-year-old girl, so I totally get it,” says Claudette Pitre, manager of the Toronto location. While prices are steep—a package with five dolls, one of each band member, costs $150—it doesn’t deter everyone. “If they really love the band, they are willing to buy the dolls,” Pitre says. Or as the crowd of adults at the back of the store suggests, at least their parents will.

After seeing the success of the pop-up retail stores, Stage 5 hopes 1D World will go on a global tour of its own. No music, just merchandise. “Pending the results of (Toronto and Chicago), there’s a whole master plan to roll out for North America,” Glover says. After that, it could be South America, Asia and Europe. Getting the word out about the temporary store hasn’t been a problem either, adds Glover, noting how quickly fans share information on Twitter and Facebook. “Before we were coming, before we announced, they all knew about 1D World.”

Despite the fanfare, Glover says he doesn’t intend to open up a permanent 1D World store because “it would just phase out.” Not unlike the boy-band phenomenon itself: wildly successful for a few months or years, then quickly relegated to music’s discount bin when the next great thing comes along. The time to cash in on the craze is limited, and the pop-up store may just be the perfect tool. “You’ve just got to get the timing right,” says Glover. “And we did.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.